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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Combining crop diversification practices can benefit cereal production in temperate climates

Rodriguez Gonzalez, Carolina; Dimitrova Mårtensson, Linda-Maria; Jensen, Erik Steen; Carlsson, Georg


Diversifying cropping systems by increasing the number of cash and cover crops in crop rotation plays an important role in improving resource use efficiency and in promoting synergy between ecosystem processes. The objective of this study was to understand how the combination of crop diversification practices influences the performance of arable crop sequences in terms of crop grain yield, crop and weed biomass, and nitrogen acquisition in a temperate climate. Two field experiments were carried out. The first was a 3-year crop sequence with cereal or grain legume as the first crops, with and without undersown forage legumes and forage legume-grass crops, followed by a cereal crop. The second experiment was a 2-year crop sequence with cereal or legume as the first crops, a legume cover crop, and a subsequent cereal crop. For the first time, crop diversification practices were combined to identify plant-plant interactions in spatial and temporal scales. The results partly confirm the positive effect of diversifying cereal-based cropping systems by including grain legumes and cover crops in the crop sequence. Legume cover crops had a positive effect on subsequent cereal grain yield in one of the experiments. Using faba beans as the first crop in the crop sequence had both a positive and no effect on crop biomass and N acquisition of the subsequent cereal. In cover crops composed of a forage legume-grass mixture, the grass biomass and N acquisition were consistently increased after the grain legume, compared to the cereal-preceding crop. However, differences in the proportion of legume to grass in mixture did not influence crop yield or N acquisition in the subsequent cereal. In conclusion, these results support that increased crop diversity across spatial and temporal scales can contribute to resource-efficient production and enhance the delivery of services, contributing to more sustainable cropping systems.


crop sequence; grain legumes; cover crops; intercropping; forage legumes; plant mixtures

Published in

Agronomy for Sustainable Development
2021, Volume: 41, number: 4, article number: 48